A charter bus carrying a dozen adults and children drove off an elevated ramp on Interstate 270 in Montgomery County Wednesday afternoon, killing the driver and sending 11 others to local hospitals, a Maryland State Police spokesman said.
Joseph A. Clabaugh Jr., 66, of Hanover, Pa., the driver of a 2006 Freightliner 29-passenger bus was pronounced dead at the scene.
Two of the injured were being treated for life-threatening injuries, according to county Fire Capt. Oscar Garcia.
Garcia said officials received a report of a crash just after 4 p.m. on the I-270 spur between Rockledge Drive and Montrose Road in Bethesda. He said the driver apparently lost control of the bus and that it rolled off a sky ramp onto the mainline of the northbound spur.
State police spokesman Greg Shipley said the bus broke through a guard rail on the left side of the ramp and went down a 45-foot embankment and through some trees and brush before coming to rest on its wheels.
Shipley said there were 12 people, both adults and children, aboard a midsize bus with about 26 seats. The injured passengers on the bus were identified Wednesday night as Sally Currie, 47, and Emma Currie, 7, of Carlisle, Pa.; Trina Manetta, 38, Donte Manetta, 10, and Dominic Manetta, 11, of Carlisle; Vincent Oliverio, 12, Madison Oliverio, 9, and Riley Oliverio, 11, of Carlisle; Helen Rockefeller, 74, and Richard Lake 77, of Endicott, N.Y.; and Ashok Sonalkar, 71, of Mechanicsburg, Pa.
The Curries, the Oliverios, Rockefeller, Lake, and Sonalkar were taken to Suburban Hospital, state police said. The Manettas were taken to Shady Grove Hospital.
In addition to the bus crash, Shipley said there was a collision of two passenger vehicles in that vicinity at the same time.
They were driving in the northbound spur of I-270 from the inner loop of I-495 when they were struck by a falling light pole caused by the bus crash, according to a state police news release. June Odegard, 55, of Montgomery Village was driving a 2010 Honda CRV in the right lane when a falling highway light pole struck the front of her car, police said. She was struck from behind by Parag G. Ghodgaonkar, 37, of Germantown, who was driving a 1998 Acura in the middle lane. He ran over the same light pole after it struck her car, police said. Odegard was taken to Germantown Emergency Medical Center. Ghodgaonkar was not injured.
Police said the bus was returning to Pennsylvania after a trip to the National Mall and National Zoo in Washington. It is still unclear why the bus left the road as it approached the sky ramp on the northbound I-270 HOV express lane from the outer loop of I-495, police said.
Garcia said more than two dozen fire and rescue personnel responded. He said four people were still in the bus when rescuers arrived and had to be extricated.
Shipley said the bus was owned by Wolf's Bus Lines of York Springs, Pa.
He did not have information about the company that operated the vehicle.
A woman who answered the phone at Wolf's said she had no information about the crash. The company is a charter operation that among other things runs tours to Washington.
On Wednesday evening, the National Transportation Safety Board announced it has dispatched a team to investigate. The NTSB said Mark Bagnard will serve as investigator in charge and that board member Robert Sumwalt would accompany the team.
The crash caused traffic havoc around I-270 and the Beltway — one of the busiest interchanges in the Washington region. Sections of the roadway were closed for hours.